Skip Bandele reflects on life and his world – as he sees it.
JUST A footnote to my reflections a fortnight ago… My papal deliberations, in accordance with copy deadlines, were actually made two weeks before whitish smoke over the Vatican proclaimed the election of the new head of the Catholic Church. Ratzinger I said and Ratzinger it is.
The procedure of his appointment was one of the quickest in history, the fourth ballot on the second day proving decisive. In 1271, it took two years and nine months to elect Gregory X! The new Pontiff is known as Benedict XVI. Benedict comes from the Latin for blessed and the first Shepherd of Christ to be so called ascended to the Catholic throne in the year 575 AD, only to die four years later when Rome was ravaged by famine.
Benedict VI (972-974) was strangled by angry citizens of Rome, who objected to his strong links to Emperor Otto the Great, and Benedict IX was only 12 when assuming the Papacy. The last Pope to take the name ruled during the First World War and famously canonised Joan of Arc.
Interestingly, the internet site catholicplanet.com announced the new Pope’s title well in advance of the Church going public with it. This prediction was based on the writings of an Irish Bishop named Malaquias, whose 12th century visions also pre-determined Benedict XVI’s death in the year 2009 or 2010. Malaquias went on to say that the following Pope would be known as Peter the Roman, during whose long reign the third and fourth World Wars, as well as the second coming of Jesus Christ, would occur. Our future will be his judge.
One last word before I turn my attention to this week’s topic…Following Cardinal Ratzinger’s appointment to the highest religious office in the world, a large part of the British press jumped on the Hitler Youth bandwagon, once again demonstrating that they will sell their grandmothers to the devil, without so much as blinking an eyelid, to sell their papers.
Such journalistic opportunism has come to be expected from the Sun or Sunday Sport (when will we see Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, with Mussolini’s equivalent, Clara Petacci, on Page Three?), but a supposedly serious paper like the Telegraph? It is quite simply beyond me. Suffice to say that Hitler Youth membership in the 1930s and 1940s in Nazi Germany was about as voluntary as army conscription in 1950s Britain. Had the new head of the Vatican turned out to be Argentinean, we no doubt would have been treated to a jingoistic regurgitation of the Falklands conflict.
My life and happiness are, thankfully, not determined by the Pope or the press. My life is, and always has been, a beach. I don’t know where this lifelong affinity comes from, but my soul has always rejoiced at waking up upon, or within sight of, sandy shores, the seductive murmur of gentle waves greeting me at sunrise. I feel at home. Maybe it is because I was born close to the sea in Lagos, Nigeria (not the western Algarve), golden palm-fringed expanses providing the perfect embroidery for the deep, blue Atlantic.
Since those first glistening rays of sunlight hit me, I have inevitably been drawn to the edges of our continents. When I was younger, I used to backpack around Europe, a sleeping bag couched by soft grains, overshadowed by a tall clifftop, providing me with the dreamed-of resting place at night.
First, I fell passionately in love with the Greek Islands, substituting the South of France when time was in short supply. Then, my parents retired to Portugal and the Algarve and its breathtaking beaches became the object of my insatiable desire. As I am writing this, I am looking across the bay not 100 yards away, the sun rising behind me to drench the oil painting-like panorama with soft orange light. The ocean is constantly moving, restless yet at peace, spilling onto the deserted, silvery shore.
There is a soothing sound reminiscent of George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby filling the early morning stillness, an oral message of the very core of my being that fades into the subconscious after a little time, becoming part of the life-blood pumping through my body. How can life be any better than this? No amount of money can buy exactly this feeling, this elation, contentment and harmony with nature. You can only be there and live it.
I am, since last month, of a certain age. The emptiness that was corrosive, I now fill with an inner joy, not talking, giving as I please, not expecting too much, minor disappointments not deflecting me from the path of contentment. I am. I live where I want to be. In my fashion, free from constraints. On the beach.
My life is a rollercoaster filled with ups and downs, but the essential truth is that I am enjoying the ride. There is gold on the horizon, salt in the air and tears carried away on the wind. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, what remain are gilded grains of memory reminding me of the passage of time, a finely, indelibly drawn line.
Heart-shaped diamonds falling
out of the sky
Surfing dragons spewing fire
Muted seahorses prancing
with defiant cries on wave tops
Cool cats, affection in a furry
sea of desire
Dreamscapes, wild creatures roaming
Moments of sleepless passion
I can hear the gentle moaning
The soldier of love opening
his last ration
Blood coursing under the
searing midnight sun
A bruising kiss, a maddening caress
Running, chasing monsters
that cannot harm
Racing across oceans of fear
An awakening, a farewell to one last tear
Eyes bleeding without belonging
My body force-fed with betrayal
Heartless fireworks choke my cries, drown the lies, an eternity of sighs
Swathing souls like flies
Worthless nothing, love songs unsung
The pain that never dies.